Travel Tales from a Senior Account Executive

As a Senior Account Executive at JNR Incorporated, my task it to create unforgettable, unique experiences that “WOW” the audience of my clients. Typically I am helping my clients increase customer and advertiser loyalty by treating their most steadfast clientele to exquisitely planned trips in exotic locales. These trips are designed as both a reward for past business and an incentive to remain loyal in the future.

My job takes me to all corners of the world and I am often on the road for weeks at a time operating programs. I had a particularly busy month recently finding myself in South Africa, Zambia and Botswana for a client program and ending with a personal visit to Uganda. This vast excursion left me with amazing ideas and insights for future programs.

No program is ever perfect but the program in South Africa was as close as it gets.  A few small, unavoidable travel issues when the group checked in for their outbound flights, but everything was resolved painlessly. After that, it was smooth sailing all the way!  We had perfect weather in Cape Town for a helicopter tour and visits to Cape Point, the wine country and a variety of dining venues. Everyone noted that they had had a spectacular time.

Sabi Sabi Reserve was, as usual, utterly amazing and we had the best game sightings I have experienced in all of my travels there. We checked off Africa’s Big five game animals (lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros) within the first two hours on our game drive and even saw a leopard drag its prey up to tree before consuming it. Gruesome and fascinating – the vehicle was covered in a curtain of awe. Dinner at the Bush Lodge was a divine highlight – a breathtaking setting that conveyed the essence of the program theme, “Capture the Magic.”  We certainly did that night!

Victoria Falls was fantastic. We enjoyed a game cruise in Botswana, swam in the Devil’s Pool at the top of the falls and peered over the precipice, walked with lions and had cocktails and dinner at sunset on a chartered luxury train over Victoria Falls bridge, which spans the Zambezi River and serves as the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The final night was highlighted by spectacular drumming on the deck at sunset in sight of the falls and dinner on the lawn with monkeys and zebras strolling by. Clients left saying this was the best program they had ever experienced and the kudos are still rolling in!

A multitude of US cancellations all over Africa were in place due to the Ebola scare which was actually centered thousands of miles from our program. The Europeans were all chuckling about fear and media coverage present in America and enjoying the lack of crowds. The most amusing part of this was when we crossed back over from Botswana to Zambia after the river game cruise, we were pulled aside and health screened because the US is now considered an “Ebola risk country” with the cases in Dallas and NY! The participants really got a kick out of us being considered a “problem country” from the African perspective.  While we take the health of our participants very seriously, this was a reminder of how situations are presented differently through various worldview perspectives.

After the program was complete, I chose to stay on in Africa and made my way North to Uganda.  What a revelation that was! It is a stunningly beautiful country to say the least.  Entebbe sits on a peninsula surrounded by Lake Victoria (2nd largest lake in the world) and the area is absolutely gorgeous. It is home to the largest United Nations community in Africa and the staging point for most of the African UN missions, both military and humanitarian. It was fascinating to see that the operation and the town is quite diverse and filled with people of all nationalities. Next, I flew up to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to see the magnificent mountain gorillas. The flight was beautiful. Uganda looks like a cross between Ireland and Bali, Indonesia. The landscape boasted a million shades of green, and every inch was terraced and cultivated for farming. They grow mostly tea, but also coffee, corn, potatoes and many other crops in this region.  The soil is very fertile due to ample rain and it is considered the “grocery store” of East Africa. Ugandans are wonderfully friendly and very proud of their country – they could not have been nicer or more genuinely welcoming.

The gorillas – WOW! There are only 800 of these primates left in the world and they are found nowhere else but this small triangle of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  I stayed at the Gorilla Sanctuary Lodge which is a spectacular “glamping” (glamorous camping) spot. The whole place includes just nine high-end tents and can accommodate 18 people at capacity. This lodge offers incredible views of the mountains and forests and every luxury amenity you could ask for. They even used furry hot water bottles to pre-warm your bed at night – a ritual I may take home with me. When you get back from trekking drenched from rain and caked in mud, they hand you a drink and remove your dirty clothes and boots, then return them spotless, pressed and dry two hours later. This paired with outstanding gourmet food and perfect service in the most incredible setting imaginable; I absolutely loved it!

The actual trek to see the gorilla troops was a very tough hike and I am glad I was ready after weeks of preparation with extra gym workouts. There are a number of different gorilla troops and those who are not as fit can choose to visit a troop that is only an hour hike away. For an extra fee, they even carry disabled people up to the closest troop. We went for the tougher three hour hike each way – and did it twice!

Each troop is habituated for three years by the rangers and trackers before they take people up to view them. Once a troop is familiar with humans, only eight people per day can visit that troop and for a maximum of just one hour. I was so impressed with how everyone involved is EXTREMELY dedicated to keeping the gorillas safe and healthy and keeping the experience exclusive and authentic for those who visit.  A team of six people brings you up the mountain- two trackers that locate the troop, two rangers with AK-47s who guard against wild mountain elephants (they shoot into the air to scare them off if they get too close), a guide and a porter who carries water, food and emergency supplies. The trek was steep, muddy and the last hour was spent hacking, slipping and stumbling our way through the densest rain forest brush. Then, all of a sudden…there they are! The troops range from twelve to nineteen gorillas, and each has a dominant male silverback, plus four to six females, a number of juveniles and a number of babies as well. There simply are no words that adequately describe how magnificent they are. Their DNA is 98.5% human and their behavior is incredibly people-like. You see them eating, playing, grooming, socializing and taking part in a variety of other activities so familiar to us. The silverback is the vigilant, protective dad and the moms are attentive to the babies. Watching the babies wrestle and play with each other and the juveniles was pure magic. Every aching muscle is a distant memory when you are immersed in this rare and exceptional experience. After we left the gorillas, the adrenaline and excitement carried us back down the mountain much faster than the time it took to get there. They say there are those who do the trek on multiple days and those who wish they had. I was immensely glad that I chose to do hikes on multiple days because the two experiences were completely different, yet equally amazing.

I also spent time hiking to waterfalls, visiting local villages and seeing what the “gorilla income” does for the surrounding communities. It is truly inspirational and the village children welcome visitors with the most genuine smiles.

I then went back to Entebbe for a night before flying home, the end to a fabulous program and a special trip I will never forget.

I am always looking forward to future travel programs and am excited to be working on potential future programs in the most exotic of locales.  Next up (I hope!) is Borneo as well as other “off the beaten track” type trips. 2015 and 2016 look to be very good years in the incentive world and there is no better way to bond with clients than to treat them to an unforgettable shared adventure.

By JNR Incorporated

Written by Kim Hester, Senior Account Executive


JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.

Photo courtesy of Donna Rohmer

Victoria Falls: An Innovative Incentive Travel Destination


What’s in it for me?

This age-old question is one that is constantly contemplated when the subject of incentive travel is put up for discussion.

As a marketing or sales manager, human resources professional, or c-level executive, you want to invest in programs you fully believe will realize a substantial return on investment.  In a word, the quality you demand when investing in an employee or customer incentive travel program is: profitability.

Turn your employees into superstars, and your customers into loyal fans, by rewarding them with the trip of a lifetime.


Here’s one example of a recent JNR program: we sent a group of loyal customers to Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Located on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe in Africa, Victoria Falls represents an incentive travel destination that produces both profits for your organization and breathtaking experiences for your employees and customers. Our Senior Account Manager recently visited the site and could not stop raving about how it was probably the most life-changing experience that she had enjoyed during her career. Walking near the towering waterfall while hiking in search of the best view was an experience that she said you must see to believe.

Fun Facts!

  • Also known as Mosi-oa Tunya, which translates to “smoke that thunders”
  • Largest waterfall in the world based on width and height
  • One mile wide and 360 feet high
  • Protected by two national parks

Best Times For Your Incentive Trip?

Many believe that the best time to visit the stunning, picturesque Victoria Falls is during the months of June and July. During this time of the year, water levels are high yet not too intense. When water levels are at full volume, the spray emanating from the falls tends to decrease visibility. Others argue that the dry season, August through October, creates a unique experience where it is often possible to walk across the top of the falls. In the end, there is no bad time to visit this gem of Africa however.

Best Ways to See The Falls?

Flying over Victoria Falls in a helicopter or microlite is an adventurous, impressive way to soak in the true beauty of this wonder of the world. It is not uncommon to see elephants or other wildlife! The more conventional way, although no less impressive, is to view the falls is by embarking on a hike. These trails can get you as close as 200 feet to the falls, and allow you to hear the pounding of the water and vapor ascending around you.

Take Action!

Victoria Falls creates an unmatched experience for your valued employees and customers. An incentive travel trip to this remarkable destination will pay you back dividends for years to come. Your employees and customers will feel appreciated, motivated, and loyal to your company. Call JNR to find out more details by dialing 949.476.2788 or visiting our travel page for more information!


Source: The Seven Natural Wonders Organization